Getting Older in Cecil: More Seniors Need Services

September 28, 2009

   The new U.S. Census Bureau “American Community Survey” finds that in 2008, 11.1 percent of Cecil County residents were age 65 or over.  But longer term state projections estimate the senior population will more than double and reach about 15.3 percent of the county’s overall population by 2030.

  Cecil County needs to start planning now for the infrastructure of transportation, health care and support services that these seniors will need within the next twenty years, especially in the more rural areas of the county where even the most basic services are all but non-existant.

    The new Census snapshot ranks Cecil County 10th out of 16 of the larger counties (and Baltimore City), with Allegany County having the highest proportion (18.3 percent) of residents age 65 or over and Charles County the lowest, with just 8.4 percent.

   Maryland planners project that Cecil County’s overall population will grow to 155,800 by 2030, with seniors age 65 and over accounting for 24,970– or about 15.3 percent of the total– up from an estimated 11,250 in 2010. (By way of comparison, in Florida, the land of retirement, seniors now account for 17.4 percent of the population.)

    The Census survey found that nearly 34 percent of seniors now living in Cecil County have disabilities, with “ambulatory difficulty” the most prevalent problem. As more seniors are unable to drive, their access to what few services exist becomes impossible.

    The county began operating “The Bus” a few years ago with regular,  scheduled routes serving the northern part of the county and primarily delivering passengers to Delaware for connections to the DART system and job sites. But for southern Cecil seniors, it takes advance scheduling to get to a doctor’s appointment in Elkton and senior services provided at the county’s office building on Route 40 are but a distant dream.

  Excellent, and expanding, medical services are available in Middletown, DE but there is no public transit from Cecil County.  As previously reported here, Christiana Care is planning to build an emergency hospital and, most likely, a full service hospital near Route 1 in Middletown.  How will the future seniors of southern Cecil County get there?

    Then there are the basics of food. There are no supermarkets and only a handful of shops offering the most basic groceries south of the canal. The vacant businesses in Cecilton are a natural location and county (and town) planners and economic development officials should prioritize bring these services to the area.

    One bright spot on the horizon is former Commissioner William Manlove’s farewell present to seniors: putting a seniors and community center facility in Cecilton into the Capital Plan shortly before he left office. So far, it has survived in the most recent Capital Plan adoped by current commissioners in April, 2009.

     The senior center is expected to cost $1.6 million, with $800,000 from the state and $558,000 from the county, plus the value of land expected to be donated by the town. So far, the county is projecting funds will be provided in Fiscal 2011 and Fiscal 2012. But with the current state fiscal crisis and tight county funds, don’t consider this a done deal.

     It is not too soon for seniors, and many future seniors who plan to grow old in this county, to insist that our County Commissioners and county departments start planning and delivering services to seniors, especially in the rural areas of the county.

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